Austria’s call to ease sanctions on Russia breaks European unity: Duda in Davos

Polish president Andrzej Duda on Thursday criticised Alexander Schallenberg, the Austrian foreign minister, for apparently calling for weakened sanctions on Moscow, saying he was “breaking up European unity”.

According to media reports, Schallenberg called for a loosening of sanctions on Moscow during a meeting on Monday with his French counterpart, Catherine Colonna.

“I am sorry to hear such voices, because when we take into account that this is said by a European politician from an EU member state, then undoubtedly I see it as breaking up European unity,” Duda said at a press briefing at the World Economic Forum.

“As you can see, there are people who are ready to do business with no regard for the blood being spilt,” he continued. “We believe the bloodshed should be stopped and those who are the perpetrators of the tragedy inflicted upon another nation should be stopped.”

Poland has been a strong advocate of harsh sanctions on Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year.

The Leopard issue

The Polish head of state was also asked by journalists about Germany’s position on the transfer of Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

Duda replied that the matter consists of two elements which should be treated separately - the issue of Germany’s consent, as a manufacturer, to the transfer of Leopard tanks to Ukraine by other countries, and the issue of “Germany’s own donation to Ukraine when it comes to Leopard tanks.”

“Decisions on the matter are made in Germany,” he said, expressing his hope that Berlin will join this process of “creating armoured resource” for Ukraine.

On January 11 in Lviv, President Duda said that Poland had decided to donate a company of Leopard 2 tanks (10-14 vehicles) to Ukraine as part of building an international coalition on the issue.

As he stressed, “first of all, we want it to be an international coalition,” pointing out that the idea is that such a coalition would donate a number of tanks together.

Since the Leopards are manufactured by Germany, the country’s agreement to transfer them to another country, not part of NATO, is crucial.

Support for the initiative to transfer modern tanks to Ukraine was also expressed by the Pentagon and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that he would transfer British Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine.

The Leopard 2 is a basic tank produced by the German Krauss-Maffei Wegmann concern. It is currently used by many European countries such as Germany, Poland, Turkey, Spain and Greece.